Regional Workshop on Trade Capacity Building and Private Sector Development in Asia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 01 December 2003
  • Speech by Ambassador Piamsak Milintachinda, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
First of all, I would like to thank OECD and the Government of Cambodia and for inviting me to speak at this Regional Workshop.
Today I would like to speak on the role not only for APEC, but of all participants in our regional economy who must work together to build an even stronger and more efficient private sector in the Asia-Pacific region.
The message I would like to leave you with is "in the global economy of 2003 and beyond no one can go it alone if they expect to reach their full potential." That is, no single economy, no single sector or industry, or no single organization can expect to operate successfully in the global economy without working in partnership and cooperation. This is cooperation not only between economies, or between like organizations - but this is also cooperation between governments through large international organizations through to local chambers of commerce.
I will discuss the areas in which APEC is active in promoting this cooperation between our member economies, business and other organizations in our region, and highlight how we are using our strengths to add value to this cooperation.
Let me begin by saying that I am very impressed with the hospitality provided by our hosts. After many years of upheaval, Cambodia, and its capital are making great progress. From what I have read, this progress is reaching much further down to assist the grass-roots people of Cambodia in the suburbs and villages, and is stimulating the growth of small and micro businesses. Cambodia has forged partnerships to build the technical capacity and competitiveness of the nation. This cooperation with other governments, with telecommunications and IT companies and engagement with intergovernmental organizations is so essential for true development.
This type of partnership is also important for other economies to actively engage in as they seek to achieve their goals of growth and prosperity.
In recent years there has been expanded attention to assisting developing economies to get full benefits of globalisation. This has been in both the APEC process and other international fora. It was also the central theme of the International Conference on Financing for Development that was held in Monterrey, Mexico, on 18 to 22 March 2002.
The Conference adopted the Monterrey Consensus. The consensus asserted the international community's resolve to eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development in a fully inclusive and equitable global economic system. This resolution mandated the promotion of international cooperation in six key areas, one of which is in improving the coherence of global and regional financial structures.
The APEC Finance Ministers' Process works towards the aims and objectives of the Monterrey Conference. This is done mainly by providing a forum to exchange views and information among members on regional financial developments, and by pursuing cooperative programs to promote financial sector development and liberalization. Last year, its work has also expanded to include issues such as countering the financing of terrorism. This year, its work has primarily focused on promoting trade, assisting Small and Medium Enterprises and strengthening the financial architecture of the region.
On the issue of promoting trade, the Finance Ministers' Process is working to promote the convergence of tariff regimes, rules of origin, and customs procedures.
The Finance Ministers' Process also recognizes the role of SMEs in economic development. For this reason, the Finance Ministers agreed to provide the support necessary for the development of micro-enterprises and SMEs, especially in the areas of financing, corporate governance and entrepreneurship. In September this year, a "Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation Among the APEC Financial Institutions Dealing with SMEs" was finalised. The MOU was signed by 12 financial institutions from 9 APEC member economies and covers financial and technical cooperation among the signatory institutions. This is an initial step towards increasing the access of SMEs to the much-needed funds required to finance the growth and for the expansion of their businesses.
The final part of the Finance Ministers' Process that I would like to mention relates to strengthening the financial architecture of the region.
When the Asian financial crisis occurred in 1997, a high proportion of borrowers defaulted on their loans because there was a mismatch between the long-term needs of borrowers and the short-term loans that were available. The Finance Ministers' Process initiative on regional bond market development aims to, among other things, address this problem of mismatches. This will be done by providing effective sources of long-term local currency funds, both domestically and within the region. This particular initiative of the Finance Ministers' Process is important for promoting sound and efficient financial systems, stabilizing capital movements within the region, and strengthening the region's financial architecture. There is still a need to harmonize and standardize bond registration requirements, standardize asset valuation and securitization, and also to develop credit guarantee markets.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
From the very beginning, APEC has stated its commitment to the multilateral trading system. At the Bangkok meetings this year, Ministers and Leaders had a wide-ranging and interactive exchange of views on the WTO Ministerial Conference at Cancun, and how to put the Doha Development Round back on track.
They reaffirmed their strong commitment to the multilateral trading system. APEC as a trading region makes around 47 per cent of global trade and 50 per cent of global GDP. An important element of our contribution to the WTO process, particularly as it relates to developing economies, is the APEC WTO Capacity Building Group.
This is a forum for building capacity and confidence of APEC member economies to enhance their participation in the WTO, both in terms of implementation and negotiations, and enjoy the benefits of WTO membership. In the past year the WTO Capacity Building Group has coordinated a number of projects. These projects cover a range of different areas relating to the Doha Development Agenda, the Singapore issues, namely investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement, and trade facilitation. A very important element of the WTO Capacity Building Group's work is the building of closer relations with WTO Secretariat, the ADB and the OECD.
As a consequence of this relationship building, these international organizations are sharing their expertise and best practices in training courses, seminars and workshops. These relations also contribute to strengthening the knowledge and experience of experts and negotiators. APEC Ministers have now called on Senior Officials to further improve these activities by reviewing the experience gained so far and building on this for the future. One of the current tasks is to identify priorities for the capacity building needs of developing economies and build this into working plans for 2004. We do hope that these capacity and confidence building activities will provide momentum for the ultimate successful completion of the Doha Development Agenda process and strengthen the multilateral trading system.
In Asia-Pacific, Small and Medium Enterprises and Micro Enterprises account for around 98 per cent of all enterprises, and make a substantial contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the region. Globalization and changes in the global economy has a great impact on the prosperity and success of SMEs throughout the region. The APEC SME Working Group provides the foundation for a number of APEC fora to incorporate SME interests into their activities across a wide range of sectors.
Through a number of initiatives APEC is assisting SMEs to overcome obstacles and increase access broader markets.These include the development of APEC Best Practices Guidelines for the Financing Chain for SMEs at Different Growing Stages and the launch of the APEC SME Portal Hub. This year APEC also gave a great deal of high level attention to Micro-enterprises in the Asia-Pacific Region and held the first meeting of the Sub Group on Micro-enterprises. The establishment of the sub group on micro enterprises enables APEC to design work programs and operational projects to address policy issues facing micro enterprises. While SMEs and Micro-enterprises provide a great deal of employment in the APEC region, they also fulfill the essential social role of empowering women and other groups that may face disadvantage or discrimination.
Building the capacity of Asia-Pacific economies is a task that is taken up in APEC's Economic and Technical Cooperation, or ECOTECH, agenda.
The ultimate aim of these capacity building efforts is to assist all APEC members, particularly developing economies, to reach the APEC Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.
A major component of this work over the past year has been the ongoing cooperation with International Financial Institutions to work jointly on delivering more effective capacity building projects and initiatives.
By sharing information and developing joint initiatives with other organizations, APEC will be able to reach out to a larger number of people in the region and leverage its limited resources to promote sustainable growth and equitable development in all APEC economies.
This relationship building process with other international financial organizations is anticipated to lead to opportunities to discuss priorities for capacity building and information exchange and this will further assist APEC in its central role of promoting the ECOTECH agenda.
The first APEC - International Financial Institutions Roundtable on ECOTECH took place in Phuket, Thailand, in August this year and was attended by representatives of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Our meeting with international financial institutions earlier this year has already resulted in further cooperation in a number of areas. With the World Bank we will now be working on the promotion of economic and technical cooperation in the areas of the knowledge-based economy and distance learning.
In conclusion, as I said at the beginning of my discussion with you today - no one can go it alone if they expect to reach their full potential in the modern economy.
If we are to build the strength of the private sector and improve access to business opportunities in the region, we must forge strong partnerships across many levels. From the examples I have provided of the initiatives APEC is undertaking, I hope I have given you a greater insight into our work in this area.
For APEC, we will continue to increase cooperation activities between governments, the private sector, local and international organizations, academia and other contributors to the global economy. We hope these efforts contribute significantly to build the trade and investment capacity of the private sector in our region.
Thank You.